The coronavirus pandemic has negatively impacted multiple industries, but the same cannot be said of e-commerce, which accelerated significantly in 2020. In fact, it’s been reported that consumers spent more than $861 billion on online transactions with U.S. retailers last year.
Prompted by this growth, many business-minded individuals started venturing into the world of e-commerce. While the industry is definitely promising, it’s also highly competitive and demanding. Hence, owners of online stores must look into viable solutions that can help them provide impeccable service to shoppers.
If you own an e-commerce store and want to boost your operations, one great way is to hire a VA for your business. A skilled virtual assistant or VA can take on a range of tasks without the massive costs of employing an onsite full-time worker.
Below, we’ll further discuss how a VA can be a valuable asset to your company and the various areas that can benefit immensely from their assistance.
Minimal Health Risks
Myriads of people are drawn by the convenience of buying goods online, especially since the threat of COVID-19 is still looming.
However, shoppers are not the only ones trying to limit social contact. Businesses are also taking critical measures to prevent the spread of the virus, such as reducing their workforce to a skeleton staff or adopting a temporary work-from-home setup.
Because VAs perform their roles remotely, no personal contact is necessary. Therefore, you can efficiently delegate and monitor tasks in the safety and comfort of your home office.
Flexible Working Arrangements
Apart from minimizing health risks, hiring a virtual assistant is also a less risky business move, thanks to the flexibility in their employment arrangements.
You can choose to hire a full-time, part-time, or freelance VA, depending on the needs of your business. You can even employ one on a project basis if your e-commerce store is still small and relatively easy to manage, save for periodical peak seasons.
Being an online merchant comes with a long list of duties, including updating products, scheduling shipping, managing advertising, and providing customer service.
With a VA taking the reins on administrative tasks, you can focus more on running and growing your business while still ensuring that routine functions are accomplished efficiently. Moreover, according to a study by Stanford University, remote employees take fewer breaks and sick days, leading to an impressive 13% increase in productivity level.
It’s impractical to hire a full-time employee to work on low-priority tasks.
A VA typically has a fixed hourly rate or charges on a task completion basis. Hence, you will only have to pay for assignments that are done. Moreover, since a VA provides services from a remote location, you won’t have to spend on expenses like office space, a work unit, or internet fees.
Tasks to Outsource to a Virtual Assistant
Depending on their expertise, virtual assistants can take on both generalized or specialized tasks.
Also, while VAs are conventionally self-employed individuals or freelancers, many outsourcing agencies employ VAs for a variety of services. Below, we’ll tackle business areas that can be outsourced to e-commerce virtual assistants.
An online merchant’s duties are mostly centered on processing and tracking orders. To save time and resources, you can hire a VA to do these jobs for you. A VA can also be assigned with the monthly order tracking and report creation. Also, depending on their level of experience, they can even be tasked with updating products and website monitoring.
Excellent customer service is essential for earning customer loyalty. With the help of a skilled VA, you can have peace of mind knowing that your customers’ concerns are being addressed promptly.
Moreover, a VA who specializes in web analytics can identify and evaluate your shoppers’ preferences based on their visits to your website and order history. Network reviews like this can give VAs a better understanding of your customers’ needs, allowing them to provide more personalized customer support.
Accounting and Bookkeeping
A VA can effectively manage your company’s daily finances and perform bookkeeping tasks, sparing you with the hassle of accounting. Accordingly, VAs who provide accounting and bookkeeping services have expertise in systematically tracking the inflow and outflow of cash. You can also expect them to organize the data so you can access it whenever you need it.
You don’t have to spend a huge chunk of your time reviewing assortments of emails. A VA can efficiently manage your work email and filter out nonessential messages. They can even keep your inboxes organized and cleaned out by regularly deleting junk and spam.
Additionally, they can create templates of standard responses and reply to low-priority emails on your behalf. You can also entrust them with following up on communications with potential customers, product suppliers, and present clients.
Social Media Engagement
Outsourcing is key to scale marketing efforts, and these include social media marketing. Accordingly, an e-commerce virtual assistant can help you with the creation and management of your accounts on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
They can handle tasks like developing and scheduling campaigns, creating and curating content, and replying to comments and messages. They can also keep your audience highly engaged by holding contests and posting about promotions.
A VA with experience in using WordPress and Shopify can take charge of your e-commerce store’s operation.
They can add items to your online shop, update product descriptions, disseminate coupons, and promote discounts. In addition to categorizing and organizing products, you can instruct them to upload and update inventory, stock, and logistics information.
VAs with good writing skills can create high-quality web content that is exclusive, insightful, and easy to read.
Also, they can provide a wide range of digital content assets, from product specifications to detailed instructions. Furthermore, they can install tags and customize pop-ups on e-commerce sites.
Tips for Hiring an E-Commerce Virtual Assistant
How do you make sure that you hire the right VA for the job?
Here are some tips to help you out.
1. Identify the Needs of Your Business
As explained earlier, a VA can work full-time, part-time, or freelance. Objectively assess the needs of your company as well as the volume of daily workload so you can determine which arrangement best suits your business.
2. Determine the Tasks That Require Assistance
List down all the jobs, both generalized and specialized, that you plan on assigning to a VA. Do you mostly need assistance on administrative tasks or do you just need a VA for business aspects that require specialization?
Identify which routine tasks you are planning to keep on doing yourself and which ones will be assigned to your VA.
3. Establish Clear Expectations
A VA usually has a broad range of expertise. However, this doesn’t mean that they have to take on every role. It’s important to be conscientious in giving assignments. For instance, you can’t expect a VA to accommodate any extra work that comes along if it’s not outlined in your agreement.
If you think you will periodically need their help on additional tasks, be sure to explain this and ask for their consent during the hiring process.
4. Do Your Research
Needless to say, it’s essential to learn the ins and outs of the industry before proceeding with employing a VA. Read about common practices and current trends so you can form expectations accordingly.
Consulting an expert is also advisable if you want professional advice.
5. Choose Strategically
While VAs are traditionally self-employed, much work under the management of outsourcing agencies. Both classes have their distinct advantages. For instance, VAs from outsourcing companies often receive continual training to keep their skills up to date. Self-employed VAs, on the other hand, can prove to be more versatile and well-rounded.
In line with these, it’s ideal to work with an outsourcing agency if you need a VA for specialized jobs like accounting and customer support. However, if you’re looking to assign mainly administrative tasks, a self-employed VA is a great choice.
Setting up an e-commerce store is one thing; managing it effectively is another. This is why it’s crucial to get adequate assistance from a dependable and skilled professional.
Accordingly, VAs are highly versatile and can handle a broad array of responsibilities, such as order processing, email management, customer support, accounting and bookkeeping, store management, social media marketing, and content production.
With the help of a VA, you can make sure that routine tasks are being taken care of promptly, allowing you to spend your time and resources on more relevant, revenue-generating ventures.
Amanda Poe is the Vice President and Head of Marketing for Outsource Access in Atlanta, Georgia. She has a passion for technology and streamlining processes while utilizing the most affordable resources. With several years of experience, she aims to grow clients big and small, while helping them keep their life in balance.
Running a business and having fun can be challenging, but employing the most efficient strategies and team makes a huge difference. In her free time, she likes to travel and visit families in the Philippines, doing in-person goal setting and give-back programs.